An Israeli flutist on the Afro-Latin scene — that’s an oversimplification of the musical profile that Itai Kriss cuts in New York, but not an inaccurate one. Kriss, who moved to the Big Apple from his native Tel Aviv some 15 years ago, has devoted his career to exploring the commonalities between Cuban, South American and Middle Eastern musics, which often boil down to the primacy of danceable rhythm. He pushes this idea to the forefront of his new album, Telavana, beginning with a track called “Sahadi’s Serenade.”
The track, which Kriss named after the beloved grocery store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, superimposes a Moroccan flute melody over an Afro-Cuban syncopation. It’s a musical synthesis as appealing and unforced as the cultural mix of the band, which is also named Televana, and features musicians from Israel (bassist Or Bareket, drummer Dan Aran), Puerto Rico (percussionist Marcos López) and Cuba (pianist César Orozco). On trumpet is Michael Rodriguez, who was born in Queens, and whose friendly sparring with Kriss, just after the midpoint of the track, is worth your time.
Itai Kriss and Televana perform on July 20 at Smalls Jazz Club.